Man who grew up in UK wrongly told to leave country for second time


A former London Underground worker who has lived in the capital for almost his entire life has been wrongly threatened with removal by the Home Office for the second time within a year.

Franklin Azolukwam, 36, who arrived in Britain with his parents as a child and has not left the country since, lost his job and was ordered to sign on with immigration officials every two weeks after being told he had no right to live in Britain last year.

After eight months of financial turmoil and fears for his future, the Home Office said the Nigerian national had been targeted “in error” and that he did in fact have indefinite leave to remain.

But months after the admitting to the blunder, the Home Office sent Mr Azolukwam another letter stating that he was not allowed to work and had no status in the UK.

After being notified about the case by Labour MP David Lammy, the Home Office admitted that the second letter had also been issued in error.

Mr Azolukwam, who has always paid his taxes and whose entire family are naturalised, told The Independent he felt he had been “targeted” by the Home Office and said he now lived in fear that the same thing could happen again.

Critics said his case showed that the Home Office was “rotten with incompetence” and called on the government to ensure that the Mr Azolukwam was fully compensated following the ordeal.

Remembering the moment he was first targeted by immigration officials last year, Mr Azolukwam, who lives in north London, said: “Nine police officers came into my house. They kicked the door down. 

“They led me out in handcuffs and put me in a detention centre for two days. Obviously I was frantic. I had panic attacks in the car.

“For the next eight months I wasn’t allowed to work. I had to go and sign on every two weeks. I got into rent arrears. My mum had to take on another job to help me. We were frantic. We were paying solicitor fees, lawyer fees, trying to get it sorted.”

After eight tumultuous months, Mr Azolukwam was told the letter had been a mistake. His first priority was to start working again – but his optimism was short lived.

“I hadn’t been working for so long. I wasn’t trying to get out there immediately, get a job, try sort my life out,” he said. “And then all of a sudden, two or three weeks ago, they sent me a letter again. It said you’re not allowed to work, you are notified you don’t have indefinite leave, you’re not allowed benefits. The exact same letter as before.

“It was like deja vu. I didn’t know where to turn. I thought it was all going to happen again. I just felt like I was being targeted.”

He added: “The amount of stress it’s caused me. I’ve got very high blood pressure. I just want it all to stop. I just want them to leave me alone, let me carry on with my life. I’ve never had a problem getting jobs; I don’t have a criminal record or anything like that. But I now have £5,000 worth of rent arrears because of the eight months when I wasn’t allowed to work.

“The most humiliating thing was having to rely on my mum. There’s nothing worse than this. She had to take on two jobs. I just want to be left alone and live my life. I don’t want police kicking at my door, I don’t want any of this. Even now, to this day, until I see another letter confirming, I’m still worried it hasn’t been sorted out.”

Mr Lammy, whose intervention prompted the Home Office to admit they made an error on both occasions, said the way the 36 year old had been treated was “beyond comprehension”.

“Following his incorrect imprisonment in a detention centre, and an apology from the Immigration Minister, Franklin had begun to stitch his life back together,” said the Labour MP. “To receive yet another letter, after this, declaring him invalid to work or study in the UK and threatening yet more detention, tore his life into pieces once again.

“Even despite numerous scandals this year, the Home Office continues to be rotten with incompetence. Franklin deserves another apology and serious compensation for the trauma he has been put through.”

Chai Patel, legal policy director at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said the case showed that the Home Office was ”simply not fit for purpose”.

He continued: “Sajid Javid must start to move away from the toxic legacy left by Theresa May and take personal responsibility for the chaos and broken lives his department leaves in its wake. He needs to explain why Franklin has been repeatedly targeted, and to ensure he is fully compensated for all of the loss he has suffered.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Mr Azolukwam is no longer subject to any enforcement action. He has indefinite leave to remain in the UK. We regret he was issued with a bail notice on 22 September in error and we apologise for any emotional stress this may have caused him. Mr Azolukwam has already been informed to ignore this notice.”



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